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China is easing some of the world’s most stringent anti-COVID controls and authorities say new variants are weaker. But they have yet to say when they might end a "zero-COVID“ strategy that confines millions of people to their homes and set off protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign. Commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities are allowed to board buses and subways without a virus test in the previous 48 hours for the first time in months. The government announced plans to vaccinate millions of elderly people. That spurred hopes for quick reopening of the country. But health experts and economists warn it will be mid-2023 and possibly 2024 before “zero COVID” ends.

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Raphael Warnock is the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia, having broken the color barrier with a special election victory in January 2021. Now Warnock can add another distinction by winning a full six-year term in a Tuesday runoff. Standing in the way is another Black man, Republican challenger Herschel Walker. The two men have cut different paths and offer clearly opposing visions for the country, including on race and racism, despite their common upbringings in the wake of the civil rights movement and the guarantee of a historical first from their Senate matchup. Black voters in this Deep South state say the choice is stark.

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Actor, musician and children’s author widely known for his portrayal of one of the first regular characters on the children’s show “Sesame Street,” Bob McGrath, has died at the age of 90. McGrath’s passing was confirmed by his family who posted on his Facebook page on Sunday. Sesame Workshop tweeted Sunday evening that it “mourns the passing of Bob McGrath, a beloved member of the Sesame Street family for over 50 years.” McGrath was a founding cast member of “Sesame Street” when the show premiered in 1969. He is survived by his wife, Ann Logan Sperry, and their five children.

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World shares are mixed and oil prices have risen after the European Union and the Group of Seven agreed on a boycott of most Russian oil and committed to a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports. Shares fell in Paris and Frankfurt but rose in London and Tokyo. Hong Kong's benchmark jumped 4.5% and the Shanghai Composite added 1.8% as more Chinese cities eased away pandemic precautions in a potential boon to the economy. Shares were mixed Friday on Wall Street, as investors fretted over inflation after a report showed U.S. wages were accelerating.

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Malik Hooker returned a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown against his former team in a 33-point fourth quarter for Dallas, propelling the Cowboys to a 54-19 rout of the Indianapolis Colts. Dallas led 21-19 entering the fourth when Dak Prescott threw the last of his three touchdown passes. Hooker’s scoop-and-score was the first of four fourth-quarter takeaways by Dallas, all of which led to touchdowns. The Cowboys had their highest-scoring quarter since at least 1991. It was just the third time in NFL history a team scored as many as 33 points in the fourth. Matt Ryan threw three interceptions and lost a fumble for the Colts.

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Two power substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what is being investigated as a criminal act. A spokesman for Duke Energy said at a news conference with local officials on Sunday that the damage caused the night before could take days to repair. Power was out for roughly 37,000 customers Sunday. In response, officials announced a state of emergency that included a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. County schools will be closed Monday. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says authorities have not determined a motivation.

The unabashedly liberal city of San Francisco became the unlikely proponent of weaponized police robots last week after supervisors approved them for limited use. In doing so, the board addressed head-on an evolving technology that has become more widely available even if it is rarely deployed to confront suspects. The authorization comes as police departments across the U.S. face increasing scrutiny for the use of militarized equipment amid a years-long national reckoning on criminal justice. A robot carrying explosives was used by Dallas police in 2016 to kill a sniper. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said armed robots would be used only as a last resort.

Legislation that ensures same-sex and interracial marriages are recognized as legal unions appears headed for final approval and President Joe Biden’s signature. The Respect for Marriage Act is a historic bipartisan agreement that reflects a wider acceptance of gay rights in both Congress and the country. The measure would protect the rights of about a half million married couples. It passed the Senate last week and heads to the House this week for near-certain approval. For many of the couples whose marriages will be protected, approval of the Respect for Marriage Act brought a sense of relief and was cause for celebration. But they also say more work needs to be done.

The extended Senate campaign in Georgia gives Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker a second chance to persuade voters to send them to Washington. But without party control of Congress at stake and without other candidates on the ticket, the runoff looks different from the November general election. The results of AP VoteCast illustrate some of the challenges each candidate faces on Tuesday. Walker will need to turn out a GOP base that wasn’t enamored with him to start with, and do it without the more popular Gov. Brian Kemp on the ballot. Warnock must get his coalition of some lower-propensity voting groups to turn out.

The Supreme Court is hearing the case of a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples, that’s the latest clash of religion and gay rights to land at the highest court. The designer and her supporters say that ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their faith. Her opponents say that if she wins, a range of businesses will be able to discriminate, refusing to serve Black customers, Jewish or Muslim people, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants, among others.

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A heartfelt Patti LaBelle praised her lifelong friend Gladys Knight. Matt Damon playfully teased George Clooney and Sheryl Crow performed a heartfelt rendition of “Baby Baby” for Amy Grant. Sean Penn called U2 “four scrappy Dublin punks,” and ballet dancers performed for conductor and composer Tania León. Knight, Clooney, Grant, León and U2 were feted during Sunday’s Kennedy Center Honors. Every year the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honors a select group of people for their artistic contributions to American culture. The show will be broadcast on Dec. 28 on CBS. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their respective spouses were in attendance.

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Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling were passed over by a Baseball Hall of Fame committee that elected former big league slugger Fred McGriff to Cooperstown on Sunday. It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

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Two power substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what is being investigated as a criminal act. A spokesman for Duke Energy said at a news conference with local officials on Sunday that the damage caused the night before could take days to repair. Power was out for roughly 37,000 customers Sunday. In response, officials announced a state of emergency that included a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. County schools will be closed Monday. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says authorities have not determined a motivation.

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Georgia, Michigan, TCU and Ohio State have made the College Football Playoff, giving the Big Ten multiple programs in the four-team field for the first time. The defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs and fourth-seeded Buckeyes will meet Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The second-seeded Wolverines and third-ranked Horned Frogs will play at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, the same day. The national championship game is scheduled for Jan. 9 at Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Georgia and Michigan have both opened as the favorites to win their semifinals and reach the title game.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. will not shrink from its unwavering support for Israel despite stark differences with Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and concerns the Biden administration may have about members of his incoming right-wing government. Blinken said Sunday that the United States will remain a stalwart friend of Israel even as it pursues goals that Netanyahu has opposed, including a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a restoration of the languishing 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Blinken also said the Biden administration would engage with Netanyahu's government based on its policies and not on personalities. But he also warned that the U.S. would object to policies that marginalize the Palestinians.

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The Supreme Court is about to confront a new elections case that could dramatically alter voting in 2024 and beyond. A Republican-led challenge is asking the justices for a novel ruling that could significantly increase the power of state lawmakers over elections for Congress and the presidency. The court is hearing arguments Wednesday in a case from highly competitive North Carolina, where Republican efforts to draw congressional districts heavily in their favor were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court. The question for the justices is whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections cuts state courts out of the process.

 

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The CIA Officers Memorial Foundation provides college tuition and other expenses to children of fallen officers. Unsurprisingly, much of the charitable work to support those families goes on in private. The leaders want to change that by holding gatherings for the children of fallen officers and gradually telling more of their stories publicly. The foundation recently hired the daughter of one of seven officers to die in a December 2009 attack on the CIA's base in Khost, Afghanistan. Calista Anderson wants to help other children of fallen officers and shares her memories of her mother, Jennifer Matthews.

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Former President Donald Trump is facing rebuke from both parties after calling for the “termination” of parts of the Constitution over his lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump, who announced last month that he is running again for president, made the claim over the weekend on his Truth Social media platform. Incoming House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday described Trump’s statement as strange and extreme. GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio said he “vehemently" disagrees and condemns the remarks. Both he and Republican Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York say the remarks should be a factor as their party decides who should lead them in 2024.

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An Iranian lawmaker has said that Iran’s government was “paying attention to the people’s real demands” a day after a top official suggested that the country’s unpopular morality police has been shut down following months of protests. The comment regarding the force's purported suspension or abolition came after months of deadly anti-government protests. The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the religious force. The Iranian morality police was established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code. Nationwide anti-government protests were sparked by the death of a women three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police.

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As Elon Musk is finding out, running a global social media platform requires more than a few good algorithms. It also presents tough decisions about what kind of content to allow, and how to handle users who break the rules. Since Musk purchased Twitter, however, the rules have become unclear and enforcement inconsistent. The platform announced it was ending its COVID-19 misinformation policy, only to say no policies had changed. Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, was banished from Twitter for posting antisemitic content, even as the platform reinstated the account belonging to a neo-Nazi leader. Social media experts say the lack of clear and enforceable content rules could hurt Twitter if users start to lose trust.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa looked relaxed and shared a joke with journalists as the African National Congress party’s national working committee is discussing his political fate. Ramaphosa’s future hangs in the balance as he faces calls from within the ANC and from opposition parties to step down from his position amid a scandal involving the theft of a large sum of cash from his farm in 2020. Ramaphosa was recused from Sunday’s meeting of the ruling ANC, which came days after an independent parliamentary panel issued a report that suggested he may have broken anti-corruption laws. The president has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making clear he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors wrote to President Joe Biden asking that the administration remove the mandate. They say it has hurt the U.S. National Guard’s ability to recruit troops. Congress may consider legislation this coming week to end the mandate as a requirement to gather enough support to pass this years’ defense budget, which is already two months late. Austin says the mandate has kept the forces healthy.

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The OPEC oil cartel and allied producers including Russia aren't changing their targets for shipping oil to the global economy. The decision Sunday comes amid uncertainty about the impact of new Western sanctions against Russia that could take significant amounts of oil off the market. Starting Monday, a European Union boycott of most Russian oil and a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports by the EU and the Group of Seven democracies take effect. On the other side, oil has been trading at lower prices on fears a slowing economy will reduce demand. OPEC said in October that's why it was a slashing production by 2 million barrels per day starting in November, which remains in effect.

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Georgia's U.S. Senate race between Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock highlights how sports and college loyalties explain a political battleground. It goes beyond just the fact that Walker is a University of Georgia and NFL football icon. Sports and politics have long intersected in America. For Republicans, it means embracing the Georgia Bulldogs, the Atlanta Braves and their fan bases that trend older, whiter and less urban than the general population. Democrats have a more demographically diverse, urban base and are less likely to use sports to connect with voters.

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It's now a lot easier and cheaper for Americans to get hearing aids. The government recently began allowing the sale of hearing aids without a prescription. These over-the-counter hearing aids began hitting the market in October at prices that can be thousands of dollars lower than prescription hearing aids. They are for people with mild-to-moderate hearing problems — not those with more severe hearing loss. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that around 30 million people in the United States deal with hearing loss. Only about 20% of the people who could use a hearing aid seek help.

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Two college students have won $100,000 in tuition after a confusing finish in the SEC championship game’s halftime competition. Boos rained down from the fans in attendance for the game between No. 1 Georgia and No. 11 LSU when one of the two students appeared to win the Dr Pepper ball toss competition in overtime on a technicality. The winner was due to get $100,000 and the runner-up $20,000. Baylor student Reagan Whitaker and St. Augustine student Kayla Gibson exchanged leads multiple times in regulation. In overtime, they tied again, but Whitaker was declared the winner. It was announced on the broadcast in the fourth quarter of the game that Dr Pepper would gift both Whitaker and Gibson with $100,000 in tuition.

Even if your credit card already earns solid ongoing rewards, there are several ways to rev up those earnings, especially amid the heavy shopping that tends to happen during the holiday season. First, look for lucrative sign-up bonuses when you open a credit card and meet a spending threshold. Beyond that, other opportunities abound — from online shopping portals you can visit to one-time offers you can add to your card as well as shopping strategies like buying gift cards. And the good news is that these steps don’t require a lot of effort on your part.

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Russian authorities have rejected a price cap on the country’s oil set by Ukraine’s Western supporters and are threatening to stop supplying the nations that endorsed it. Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the 27-nation European Union agreed Friday to cap what they would pay for Russian oil at $60-per-barrel. The limit is set to take effect Monday, along with an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday that Russia needs to analyze the situation before deciding on a specific response but that it would not accept the price ceiling. Russia’s permanent representative in Vienna warned, "From this year, Europe will live without Russian oil.”

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A 7-year-old Texas girl has been found dead two days after being reported missing, and a FedEx driver who made a delivery to her home shortly before she disappeared was arrested in her death. Authorities in Wise County say the body of Athena Strand was found Friday and 31-year-old Tanner Lynn Horner was arrested on kidnapping and murder charges. Horner remained jailed Saturday on $1.5 million bond. Jail records did not list an attorney who could speak on his behalf. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin said late Friday that a tip led authorities to Horner.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says the U.S. is at a pivotal point with China and will need military strength to ensure that American values, not Beijing’s, set global norms in the 21st century. Austin's speech Saturday caps a week in which the Pentagon has been squarely focused on China’s rise, with the release of a dire report warning of China's growing nuclear arsenal, and the rollout of the U.S.' newest strategic bomber. Austin says China “is the only country with both the will and, increasingly, the power to reshape its region and the international order to suit its authoritarian preferences." He says the U.S. "will not let that happen.”

The Biden administration is toughening its language toward NATO ally Turkey. Administration officials hope to talk Turkey out of a ground offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria. Turkey has blamed the U.S. and its Kurdish militia ally in Syria, without evidence, for a Nov. 13 bombing that killed six people in Istanbul. Turkish airstrikes and artillery have killed scores of Syrian Kurds since then. Kurdish fighters and American troops work together in northern Syria to quell Islamic State fighters. How the U.S. handles the conflict there has implications for the NATO stand against Russia in the Ukraine war and the fight against the Islamic State, as well as for America's Kurdish allies.

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HOUSTON (AP) — A 33-year-old man was arrested on a murder charge in the shooting of rapper Takeoff, who police on Friday said was an “innocent bystander” when he was struck by gunfire outside a Houston bowling alley.